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Understanding the Socioeconomic Conditions of Refugees in Kenya | Volume A: Kalobeyei Settlement - Results from the 2018 Kalobeyei Socioeconomic Survey

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The Global Compact on Refugees represents a new approach to managing forced displacement situations, one in which evidence and data are central to its success and key to link humanitarian and development actions.

Kenya is exemplary of the challenges and opportunities of this new approach. Since 1992, it has been a generous host of refugees and asylum seekers, a population which today exceeds 490,000 people, engendering both positive and negative impacts on local Kenyans. The Kalobeyei Settlement, located in Turkana County along the northwestern border of Kenya, was established in 2015 as an alternative to a camp setting, based on principles of refugee self-reliance, integrated delivery of services to refugees and host community members, and greater support for livelihood opportunities through evidence-based interventions.

In Kenya, refugees are not systematically included in national surveys and, as a result, there is a lack of data on refugee poverty measures that is comparable to the national population. While the humanitarian-development approach used in Kalobeyei emphasizes the interconnectedness of refugees and host communities, the existing data sources do not lend themselves to easy comparison. The Kalobeyei Socioeconomic Survey (SES) helps close data gaps by using micro-level data to understand the living conditions of refugees and ultimately inform policy and targeted programming. The SES employed a novel approach to addressing this need by generating data that are statistically representative of the settlement’s population in 2018 and comparable to the Kenyan national survey measuring poverty from 2015/16.
This survey provides one of the first comparable poverty profiles for refugees and host community members, enhancing the evidence base for informing targeted policies and programs. Taking place within a UNHCR registration verification exercise, the SES included a range of standard socioeconomic indicators, including consumption-based poverty, aligning with the national 2015/16 Kenya Integrated Household Budget Survey (KIHBS) and Kenya Continuous Household Survey (KCHS). Initiated jointly by UNHCR and the World Bank, the SES was designed to support the settlement’s development framework, as well as the wider global vision laid out by the Global Compact on Refugees and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In doing so, it provides lessons for how this important information may be collected in other settings, in line with the vision of the World Bank-UNHCR Joint Data Center (JDC).

When compared to national averages, the results of the SES show that residents of Turkana County—both hosts and refugees—are among the worse off in Kenya in terms of poverty and associated socioeconomic indicators. More than 6 in 10 refugees (65 percent) are poor—as measured by the international poverty line for extreme poverty of US$1.90 (2011 PPP) per capita per day. This is higher than the national rate (37 percent) and comparable to what is found in the 15 poorest counties in the country (59 percent on average) but lower than Turkana County (72 percent overall, including 85 percent in rural areas and 51 percent in urban areas).

Using a modified version of the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), used by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in its Human Development Report, shows that one-third of refugees (33 percent) are found to be ‘deprived’ or ‘severely deprived’ in respect to education, health, and living standards. Of the remaining, 41 percent are ‘vulnerable to deprivation’, while 26 percent are ‘non-deprived’. Comparable data for nationals are not available.

Demographic profile. In terms of their demographic profile, refugees in Kalobeyei are younger than the Kenyan population, with virtually no elders (65 years of age and older)—resulting in a high dependency ratio and subsequent increased need for basic services for children and youth. To contribute positively to future economic prospects, children and youth require investment in human capital, in terms of health and education. Additionally, in Kalobeyei, refugee children face special risks which require targeted support— particularly the over 300 unaccompanied minors and more than 1,600 separated children. The large share of young